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Coercion and Government

When governments in modern times don't apply enough power, or if there is no government power as with a failed state, protection rackets arise. Legitimate governments adhere to the rule of law, and they need the power to police, in other words the power to employ force or the threat of force. Only a utopian anarchist can declare all coercion to be immoral.

Some in our democratic society oppose government coercion, or they oppose claims that coercion is a state monopoly. They might also assume that they have the right to coerce. They might believe that threatening people with violence (including death threats) is the right thing to do.

(Husbands in the United States are acting illegally when they try to coerce their wives physically.)

Vigilantes may argue that their aggressions against the state are necessary because remedy through courts of law are unavailable. Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City believing that he was punishing the federal government for its actions in Waco Texas. Another Army veteran, Micah Johnson, 25, shot and killed five Dallas police officers as punishment for the deaths of two black men a few day before. Militia-men contest the established order, but, to win, they and other revolutionaries need support so widespread that they could win through electoral politics. Their efforts against the state by violent means remain an emotional exercise in futility.

In the United States the law is reasonable enough to allow us when police are not available to protect ourselves and others by coercing an aggressor to desist during his aggression.


Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.